Improving Adult Literacy

9 Jun

engadget-logo-619px-1366387447Engadget, a technology blog, had an article yesterday about improving adult literacy.  XPRISE is teaming up with the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in a competition for developers to create applications to promote reading and writing for adults.  The article states that there are 36 million adults living in the United States without solid literacy skills.  What they consider to be “solid literacy skills” is not stated, but according to the Literacy Project Foundation, “45 million adults are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level.”

That being said, this competition would encourage developers to create mobile applications over the course of 18 months.  The competition will be narrowed down to five teams whose apps will be tested with 1,000 low-literate adult students over the course of a year.  First prize will receive a $4 million prize with the ability for bonuses.

My first thought, great!  Literacy is an ongoing issue in this country that could help thousands, if not millions of people.  Then I stopped and thought about it a little more.  The focus is on mobile applications.  There is an assumption here that the people most in need of these apps have smart phones and have access to the Internet.  And many of them may have both of those things, but the Literacy Project Foundation’s website also has statistics about welfare, poverty, prison inmates, and student test scores.  And the statistics don’t look pretty.  I’m not saying that adult literacy is a lost cause, but I think there may be a better way of providing resources to people who need them.  I’m interested to see how this works!

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